Venue Case Studies
Case Study: The Picturehouse, Uckfield
The Picture House Cinema and Restaurant is an independent cinema based in the rural town of Uckfield in East Sussex. It has many family estates as well as an older population. The cinema attracts a mainly older audience with younger customers heading to bigger towns to major cinema chains to visit the cinema.
Why We Started This Work
We wanted to be part of The Young Programmers to encourage a younger audience to our cinema and give them appreciation of independent cinemas and film. We also employ many young people in our cinema as ushers and as waiting staff in our restaurant. They are important to our business and to the future of the business. One of our current staff has taken the role of assisting with the group.
Our Planning and Approach
To start to find our Young Programmers we contacted the local Community College who have a sixth form and provide Film Studies and Media at A Level. We built a relationship with the Films Studies teacher and produced leaflets and went to speak to the students. An initial call out meeting was arranged for anyone interested to come along and meet us. We also advertised the group in our brochure and via leaflets and social media but no response came from these. Our first group started in 2019 with 8 Young Programmers. Since then our groups have continued every year, with a break during the Covid pandemic when we managed to do some sessions online. Groups have ranged in size from 10 to 3 young people. Every year we lose some Young Programmers when they leave to go to University. Some go on to study film at University. We then try and recruit the next A Level in take.
Currently our group meet once a week in our restaurant during term time. If we didn’t have the restaurant it would be very hard to run the group as we wouldn’t have the space to meet. We provide food and drink whilst discussing films. I try to keep the meetings very informal (after all this is not school – it is supposed to be enjoyable). The meetings are not hugely structured but we try to discuss one aspect of the film business such as distribution or marketing during the sessions and some weeks we start the session with a film picture quiz or an online film quiz. The main aspect each week is discussing the films they want to screen in the cinema and how they are going to select them. By genre, director, actor, event, what’s trending etc. The screenings take place in the cinema once a month on a Monday evening. To date we have screened 20 films (with a break during Covid). One thing that we get our Young Programmers to understand is the costs involved in screening a film, the money that has to be paid to the distributor and how many tickets we need to sell to break even. As an independent business we need to make sure we are not making too many losses.
Marketing is the key task that they are able to get involved with. They have an Instagram account which they feel is best for promoting to a younger audience. They create their own flyers and posters to distribute and write the copy to be added to our website and brochure.
The groups have been involved with extra ICO funded projects such as the Film Hub North Screen Archive Project where they teamed up with the local screen archive, who provided shorts to play before the main feature. Also they worked on the Lost Connections project created around the mental health of young people post Covid. They found a speaker for a pre film talk about Young Peoples Mental Health.
The main difficulty for the Young Programmer is marketing a one off event in just a few weeks. This is a very difficult task for any marketeer, unlike promoting a main release film with a big studio backing. It’s also not their full time job and for our programmers school and exams have to take priority. Although they would like to programme more independent films, marketing them and not making a loss is very difficult. They have to take into account the local audience as we are not in a multiculture big city. One things they have to learn as programmers is to know your audience.
Our best successes have been older main stream films such as Grease and Thelma and Louise. Our average attendance is 25 in a 75 seater auditorium. Some screenings have been ‘eventised’ where we add extra q and a or dress-up and one of most successful screenings was Harry Potter and Philosophers Stone, 67 customers (75 capacity). Customers were encouraged to dress as their favourite Harry Potter character and receive a free popcorn.
Overall the project has been successful and it’s be wonderful to see many of them go onto study film.
Nicolette Howard, Marketing Manager and YFP Coordinator at The Picturehouse, Uckfield